In line with the National Payments Strategy (2022 – 2025) principles launched by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) in February 2022, the first stage of mobile money service interoperability is now in progress.
This proposition aligns with CBK’s Payment Principles, which seek to achieve a fast, secure, collaborative, and efficient payments system that enables financial inclusion and supports innovations that benefit the Kenyan consumer with security, trust, choice, and usefulness.
In this phase, you can buy items and pay using MPesa Till from other networks. This is good news for almost everyone considering it makes it easier to use the popular payment medium.
Kenya’s leading mobile network operators, Airtel, Safaricom, and Telkom, had announced earlier on in April that they were working on an interoperability system. But not many had expected it to unfold so soon.
The primary objective of interoperability of the country’s mobile money service providers is to allow Kenyans to enjoy the flexibility of making direct mobile money payments from any network to Merchant Tills and Pay Bill Numbers.
This, in turn, is expected to increase the convenience of making cashless payments and boost the adoption of the same.
The second phase towards complete mobile money merchant interoperability will see Kenyan consumers pay via mobile money from their MPesa accounts to Pay Bill and Till Numbers of the other networks: T-Kash and Airtel Money.
The leading mobile service providers made this historic announcement at Muguga Green Primary School. Here, each of the telcos paid Ksh. 300,000 to the institution’s Pay Bill number from the mobile money wallets of the respective companies’ spokespersons.
The school will use the total amount received during the groundbreaking event to meet some of its operational needs for the year’s second term.
A Significant Milestone
Clearly, every customer would love to make seamless payments for businesses, school fees, utilities, and other service providers regardless of their mobile network. So the recent announcements come as a major landmark for the country’s leading telecommunication companies.
CBK shares the same view, stating that the rollout aligns with the person-to-person interoperability implemented earlier in 2018. The financial service industry regulator termed the new service “a significant milestone” and the final step towards complete interoperability between mobile money merchants.
Both the Central Bank and the Communications Authority of Kenya approved the rollout.
Consumers across the three mobile service providers couldn’t make mobile payments across networks. This was a significant barrier for anyone looking to make critical payments or shop if they couldn’t interact with a service provider vendor.
In total, the three telecommunication giants have an estimated 560,000 vendors.
Besides ensuring convenient payments, erasing the interoperability barriers could mean more business opportunities for the numerous vendors.
According to the Central Bank, the lack of full interoperability limited customers to their respective mobile networks when making payments. They had to resort to alternative payment methods that were neither affordable nor customer-friendly.
But now, for the first time, it doesn’t matter the network a vendor, customer, or biller uses – customers can make direct, cross-network payments as conveniently as they would with their mobile service provider.
How to Lipa Na M-PESA Using Airtel Money
It’s not difficult to pay to an MPesa Till or Pay Bill number from your Airtel Money. You only need to have a sufficient account balance to facilitate the transaction. The process entails the following steps:
- Dial the USSD code *222#
- Choose Lipa na MPesa
- Hit the MPesa Till option
- Key in the vendor’s Buy Goods Till number, then press OK
- Enter the amount you wish to pay
- Key in the correct Airtel Money PIN to authorize the transaction
After completing these steps, you’ll receive a text about the transaction. The vendor will also receive a text on their device.
How to Lipa na M-PESA Using T-Kash
Telkom Kenya network users also have a simple process of paying their bills and shopping via MPesa Till. You only need an active T-Kash wallet and enough cash in your account. You’ll then follow these steps:
- Dial *160#
- From the options, choose Buy Goods and Services
- Select the Use Mpesa Till Number option
- Key in the business Till Number, then hit OK
- Confirm the transaction by entering your T-Kash PIN
You’ll receive an SMS receipt of the transaction in an instant.
Why More Kenyans Prefer Paying Via Mobile Money
Cash transactions are simple and quick, but more Kenyans now transact via mobile money services. In particular, the MPesa Paybill option has grown immensely popular over the last years for the following reasons.
The mode of payment covers everything from school fees, barbershop services, and utility bills to supermarket shopping and paying for shoe shine services.
The fact that almost every business has a green Buy Goods or Pay Bill poster and the ease of mobile transactions make it a preferred mode of payment for many.
Generally, it’ll cost you nothing to make payments for bills and shopping via MPesa Pay Bill or Buy Goods Till.
Mobile payments are as secure as bank transfers. For instance, you don’t have to carry huge sums of cash to facilitate transactions. Moreover, the transactions are protected by the country’s financial regulations.
Sometimes, you may need to pay for a good or service, but you have cash in your bank account. Going to the ATM or bank will take time. But you can quickly transfer the cash from your bank account to your T-Kash, MPesa, or Airtel Money account, then pay via the Pay Bill option.
More Is Yet to Come
The freedom to pay to an MPesa Till or Paybill number is only the first stage of interoperability and is only focused on T-Kash and Airtel Money account holders.
The next phase should see Safaricom users pay for services or goods to merchants on T-Kash and Airtel Money. However, the telcos haven’t provided timelines for this second stage.
We’ll likely see this option included in the networks’ respective mobile apps down the road. But for now, there’s no word about it.
Moreover, the respective companies’ SIM Toolkit menus still don’t support the interoperability feature. Until this is updated, you’ll only rely on the USSD Code method for now.